Liver Cancer Isn’t a Coffee Drinker

Liver cancer risks reduced in coffee drinkers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) One of the world's most popular beverages — coffee — may be more than a great way to jump start the day. Mounting evidence suggests coffee beans are full of healthy compounds that may help ward off a number of diseases, including cancer.

An updated review of research showed that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of liver cancer than people who didn’t drink coffee.

High-level drinkers, which was considered consuming at least three cups a day, saw their risk reduced by more than half compared to non-drinkers.

"Learn about the health benefits of coffee."

Carlo La Vecchia, MD, from the department of epidemiology at Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri" and department of clinical sciences and community health at Università degli Studi di Milan in Italy, and colleagues updated a previous analysis of many studies published in 2007.

These investigators were looking at the links between coffee consumption and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC is the most common type of liver cancer, and it's estimated that it will be diagnosed in nearly 31,000 Americans this year.

Rates of HCC are on the rise in North America and Northern Europe, the authors reported in the study’s introduction.

According to the authors, 90 percent of liver cancers could be prevented by controlling the two viruses hepatitis B and C, which cause a majority of HCC cases, and by lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption.

The researchers examined research published from 1966 through September 2012 and selected 16 high-quality studies and a total of 3,153 cases for analysis.

When combining the results of all of the studies, the research team was able to conclude the following:

  • Coffee consumption of any amount lowered HCC risks by 40 percent compared to no coffee consumption.
  • For every cup of coffee drunk, HCC risks were reduced by 20 percent.
  • High coffee consumption of three cups a day reduced HCC risks by 56 percent compared to no coffee consumption.
  • This relationship was seen regardless of other risk factors, including gender (liver cancer is far more common in men than women), alcohol drinking or history of either hepatitis or liver disease.

Despite this evidence, the authors were clear not to establish a causal relationship — that is, they did not suggest that coffee was the cause for reduced liver cancer incidence.

"The favorable effect of coffee on liver cancer might be mediated by coffee's proven prevention of diabetes, a known risk factor for the disease, or for its beneficial effects on cirrhosis and liver enzymes," Dr. La Veccha said in a prepared statement.

The authors concluded, “The protective effect of coffee was consistent across different populations and subgroups at increased HCC risk. However, the issue of causality and the role of specific coffee components remain open to discussion."

This study was published in the November issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

The research was supported the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
October 24, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013